Self-defense often plays a vital role in criminal cases involving allegations of assault, murder, or other violent crimes. Depending on the defendant’s conduct and intent, his or her actions could be interpreted as an aggressive criminal act – or as necessary and justified self-defense in protection of property, personal safety, or the safety of others. When complex legal issues of self-defense arise, deft legal representation can make the difference between preserving your freedom and going to prison.
If you have been charged with murder, assault, or other violent crimes after using self-defense to protect yourself, another person, or your private property, you need to speak with an experienced attorney right away. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, we are Atlantic City criminal lawyers with decades of experience representing adults and juveniles charged with felonies (indictable crimes) and misdemeanors (disorderly persons offenses), including homicide charges, domestic violence charges, and aggravated assault. If you acted in self-defense, we will fight to bring your side of the story to light. Contact us online right away to set up a free legal consultation, or call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
Criminal Charges Involving Self-Defense
Self-defense most commonly arises in cases involving the following types of charges:
- J.S.A. § 2c:11-3 – Murder
- J.S.A. § 2C:11-4 – Manslaughter
- J.S.A. § 2c:12-1(a) – Simple Assault
- J.S.A. § 2c:12-1(b) – Aggravated Assault
Our office represents defendants facing these and other violent crimes in New Jersey, including charges involving firearms and other types of weapons.
What Are the Self-Defense Laws in New Jersey?
Each state has its own self-defense laws, with major variations across state lines. Some states give property owners more flexibility, while others follow stricter regulations. In New Jersey, there are two self-defense laws which might arise in a criminal case: N.J.S.A. § 2C:3-4, which deals with self-defense as a means of protection against injury; and N.J.S.A. § 2C:3-6, which specifically focuses on situations where a homeowner uses force to protect his or her property. Both of these statutes are discussed in greater detail below.
N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4 (Use of Force in Self-Protection)
As noted above, N.J.S.A. § 2C:3-4 deals with the “use of force in self-protection,” or the use of force against physical harm to one’s person. This statute allows the “justifiable” use of force to protect one’s personal safety, but in doing so, creates certain standards and limitations. For example, the defendant must have had a “reasonable” belief that using force was absolutely necessary to protect against harm. In addition, the level of force used must be appropriate and proportionate considering the situation. For example, it would not be self-defense to use deadly force against an unarmed individual who is threatening to punch or hit someone.
The law also requires the defendant to have been protecting himself or herself against unlawful force, such as an attack or sexual assault. If the force being applied was lawful – for example, if the defendant was being lawfully placed under arrest by a police officer – self-defense arguments would not apply. (On the contrary, the individual would likely be charged with resisting arrest, which is a serious criminal offense in New Jersey.) This particular example is based in N.J.S.A. § 2C:3-4(b)(1)(a), which provides, “The use of force is not justifiable… [t]o resist an arrest which the actor knows is being made by a peace officer… unless the peace officer employs unlawful force” when making the arrest.
N.J.S.A. 2C:3-6 (Use of Force in Defense of Premises or Personal Property)
This statute deals with self-defense in protection of your home or property from burglars and intruders. Like N.J.S.A. § 2C:3-4, this law imposes certain limits on homeowners, such as the “duty to retreat” discussed below. To provide a related example, N.J.S.A. § 2C:3-6(b)(1) requires homeowners to ask the intruder to leave before resorting to use of force, unless the homeowner has good cause to believe that asking “would be useless,” that asking “would be dangerous,” or that the intruder will cause “[s]ubstantial harm” to the property “before the request can effectively be made.”
What is the “Duty to Retreat” in NJ?
In New Jersey, there is a “duty to retreat,” which does not apply in all U.S. states. The duty to retreat states that the defendant must retreat, rather than use force, if he or she knows it is possible to do so safely.
Atlantic City Self-Defense Lawyers for Murder, Assault, and Domestic Violence Charges
Self-defense is a complicated area of the law that can be tricky for defendants to navigate. Make sure you talk to a skilled defense attorney for self-defense charges related to murder, assault, or other violent crimes. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, we take pride in providing a dedicated defense. For 24-hour legal assistance, call our law offices at (609) 616-4956 for a free legal consultation, or contact us online today.